Glitch art

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Glitch art is the aestheticization of digital or analog errors, such as artifacts and other "bugs", by either corrupting digital code/data or by physically manipulating electronic devices (for example by circuit bending).

History of the term[edit]

A databent image

In a technical sense a glitch is the unexpected result of a malfunction. It was first recorded in English in 1962 during the American space program by John Glenn when describing problems they were having, Glenn explained, "Literally, a glitch is a spike or change in voltage in an electric current."[1]

Early examples of glitches used in media art include Digital TV Dinner (1978) created by Jamie Fenton and Raul Zaritsky, with glitch audio done by Dick Ainsworth. This video was made by manipulating the Bally video game console and recording the results on videotape.[2] In her introduction to her Glitch Studies Manifesto, Rosa Menkman mentions A Colour Box (1935) by Len Lye, MagnetTV (1965) by Nam June Paik and Panasonic TH-42PWD8UK Plasma Screen Burn (2007) by Cory Arcangel as examples of mechanical and digital noise in visual art;[3] precedents of glitch.

Glitch is used to describe these kinds of bugs as they occur in software, video games, images, videos, audio, and other forms of data. The term glitch came to be associated with music in the mid 90s to describe a genre of experimental/noise/electronica (see glitch music). Shortly after, as VJs and other visual artist began to embrace the glitch as an aesthetic of the digital age, glitch art came to refer to a whole assembly of visual arts.[citation needed]

In January 2002, Motherboard, a tech-art collective, held a glitch symposium in Oslo, Norway, to "bring together international artists, academics and other Glitch practitioners for a short space of time to share their work and ideas with the public and with each other."[4]

Animated example of what a glitched video can look like by Michael Betancourt. (Mae Murray in a screen test)

On September 29 thru October 3, 2010, Chicago played host to the first GLI.TC/H, a five-day conference in Chicago organized by Nick Briz, Evan Meaney, Rosa Menkman and Jon Satrom that included workshops, lectures, performances, installations and screenings.[5] In November 2011, the second GLI.TC/H event traveled from Chicago to Amsterdam and lastly to Birmingham, UK.[6] It included workshops, screenings, lectures, performance, panel discussions and a gallery show over the course of seven days at the three cities.[7]


  • Datamoshing - Data moshing refers to the manipulation or breaking of data in a video, picture, for an aesthetic purpose.[8][9] Popular tools/applications that are commonly used to datamosh consist of Audacity, Avidemux,[9] and WordPad. Datamoshing is the most common method for achieving glitched files and creating glitch art.
  • Circuit bending- Circuit bending refers to the manipulation and customization of wires and circuits within electronic devises for the purpose of achieving new sounds and visuals.[10] For example, by damaging internal pieces of something like a VHS player, one can achieve different colorful visual images.


  • Audacity - Commonly thought of only as audio editing software, Audacity can actually be used as a tool to create glitch art.[12][13] By uploading an images raw data to audacity and exporting to the output “U-Law” or “A-Law,” one can datamosh an image by applying various filters and effects to the images raw data. The best image file types to use for this method are “.TIF” and “.RAW” since these image files do not have protective encrypting or data. Other file types normally contain data which acts as a specifier, letting the computer program know what the file is. If this data becomes corrupted the image will no longer be able to be read by the computer. If the artist wishes to use a protected file type such as “.BMP” one method to circumvent file corruption is to skip about half way through the data and only add effects to areas past this point since protective code is always found at the beginning of the files data. The audacity method of glitching is considered to be “organic” glitching, which means the effects generate random visuals within the image. Since this is still something that is fairly unexplored, it is hard to say for sure if there is any way to control the effects but there is some aspect to it which can be controlled. For example adding reverb will always produce color changes and using a “wah wah” effect will create a wavy visual within the image.
  • WordPad - The WordPad method is a Windows specific form of glitching that uses Windows WordPad as a tool for creating visual artistic images by corrupting the code of an image file.[10][14] Similarly to the Audacity method, the effects are for the most part random, yet a user with knowledge of binary coding would have advantage when using this method. In order to perform this glitch, first, convert any image file into a Bitmap (.BMP) format. Open the .BMP file in WordPad and randomly change sections of the code. Open the image back up in any photo viewer to view the changes. Keep in mind, the file type of the image selected with does matter, since some file contain protective coding. Skip through about half of the binary code, when glitching, to avoid this part of the code and rendering the file unreadable.
  • Avidemux - Avidemux is a free video editing application for both Mac and Windows which can be used to datamosh video by compression to create colorful and abstract visuals.[9] This method of glitch requires removing most of the I-frames from a video, leaving only mostly P-frames. The result will cause the original image of the initial I-frame to be displayed over all the other P-frames in the video which control the pixel movement in the visuals.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Moradi, Iman. (2004) Glitch Aesthetic
  2. ^ Betancourt, Michael. (2015) The Invention of Glitch Video: Digital TV Dinner (1978) (preview)
  3. ^ Menkman, Rosa (2011), "Glitch Studies Manifesto", in Lovink, Geert; Somers-Miles, Rachel, Video Vortex Reader II: Moving Images Beyond YouTube, Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, pp. 336–347, ISBN 978-90-78146-12-4 
  4. ^ Motherboard. (2002)
  5. ^ Rhizome. (2010)
  6. ^ The Creators Project. (2011)
  7. ^ Cool Hunting (2011)
  8. ^ "Datamoshing Technique for Video Art Production" (PDF). 芸術科学会論文誌 - The Journal of The Society for Art and Science 13. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  9. ^ a b c "Encoding Explained". Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  10. ^ a b "Glitch art created by 'databending'". Wired. 2010. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  11. ^ Turk, Victoria. "3D-Printed Mistakes Are Inspiring a New Kind of Glitch Art". Vice Motherboard. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  12. ^ Khaw, Cassandra. "Make glitch art with your sound-editing software". Verge. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  13. ^ "DATABENDING USING AUDACITY". Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  14. ^ "databending and glitch art primer, part 1: the wordpad effect". Retrieved 19 July 2016. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]